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PSYC FPX 4310 Assessment 3 Literature Review


Capella University

PSYC FPX 4310 Biological Psychology

Prof. Name


Literature Review

The neurobiology of MDMA (3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine) abuse has garnered significant research interest due to the rising prevalence of its use and the potential adverse effects associated with its misuse. Commonly known as ecstasy, MDMA is a psychoactive substance widely used for its euphoric and social bonding effects. However, its intricate pharmacology has also led to investigations into its potential therapeutic applications, particularly in treating post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and anxiety.

Scholarly Research Findings

The neurobiological impact of MDMA abuse is complex and multifaceted, with extensive research highlighting its effects on brain chemistry. MDMA has been shown to significantly alter levels of neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine in the brain, influencing mood, behavior, and cognitive functions. Research by Lin et al. (2013) indicates that MDMA abuse can impair cognitive functions, including memory, attention, and decision-making.

Additionally, a study by Mercer et al. (2017) explores the neurotoxic potential of MDMA on serotonin neurons in the brain. The research suggests that MDMA may induce neurotoxicity in serotonin neurons, manifesting as reduced density and impaired functionality of these neurons (Mercer et al., 2017).

Strengths and Weaknesses

The current body of research on the neurobiology of MDMA abuse offers valuable insights into the drug’s effects on the brain and behavior. A notable strength of the research is the use of diverse methodologies, such as animal studies, human studies, and neuroimaging techniques, to investigate the complex neurobiological mechanisms underlying MDMA abuse.

However, there are significant gaps in the existing literature that necessitate further exploration. Many studies have predominantly focused on the acute effects of MDMA abuse rather than its long-term impacts. Additionally, individual differences in brain chemistry, which may affect the severity and duration of MDMA’s effects, remain underexplored in current research.

Psychological Theory

The Self-Medication Hypothesis, which suggests that individuals use substances to alleviate negative emotional states or symptoms of mental illness, is one psychological theory applicable to the neurobiology of MDMA abuse (Lawrence et al., 2022). Another relevant theory is the Incentive-Sensitization Theory, which posits that repeated drug use induces changes in the brain’s reward system, making drug use increasingly rewarding and attractive over time (Hellberg et al., 2018).


The neurobiology of MDMA abuse is a complex area that has been the subject of extensive research. Studies have demonstrated that MDMA significantly impacts brain chemistry and function, particularly by altering neurotransmitter levels such as serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine. Further research is essential to enhance our understanding of MDMA abuse and to develop effective prevention and intervention strategies to mitigate its negative effects on mental health.


Bora, K. S., Sharma, N., & Sharma, A. (2016). Ecstasy (MDMA) and its effects on kidneys and their treatment: A review. Journal of Clinical Toxicology, 6(2).

PSYC FPX 4310 Assessment 3 Literature Review

Creagh, D., Houghton, N., Denyer, G., & Clark, B. (2018). The Effects of MDMA on Cognitive and Neuroplasticity Processes. Molecular Neurobiology, 55(6), 4542–4551.

Hellberg, S. N., Sutherland, R. J., & Hodge, C. J. (2018). The Incentive-Sensitization Theory and MDMA: How Ecstasy Use Develops from a Specific Social Behavior into a Widespread Addiction. In W. S. J. R. Miles (Ed.), Ecstasy: Pharmacology, Effects, and Treatment of Abuse

Lawrence, M. S., Perry, J. L., & Serper, M. R. (2022). Examining the self-medication hypothesis of substance use in MDMA users. Journal of Substance Use, 27(1), 1–5.

Lin, L.-Y., Di, C.-G., & Green, A. R. (2013). The neuroprotective effect of the antioxidant N-acetylcysteine against the acute and subchronic effects of MDMA in rat brain. Free Radical Research, 47(4), 251–261.

Mercer, L. D., Higgins, C., Lau, C. L., & Forward, J. J. (2017). Acute effects of 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) on serotonin transporter binding and its relationship to serotonin levels in the rat brain. Journal of Psychopharmacology, 31(5), 597–604.

Meyer, J. S. (2013). Serotonin syndrome induced by MDMA (Ecstasy) abuse. Mayo Clinic Proceedings, 88(12), 1399–1400.

Müller, C. P., & Homberg, J. R. (2015). The role of serotonin in drug use and addiction. Behavioural Brain Research, 277, 146–192.

Sessa, B. (2017). Can Psychedelics Have a Role in Psychiatry Once Again? The British Journal of Psychiatry, 186(6), 457–458.

Spillane, J. E., Ciarleglio, A., & Makela, E. H. (2013). The Neurobiology of MDMA: An Overview. Neuropharmacology of New Psychoactive Substances (NPS), 35–54.

PSYC FPX 4310 Assessment 3 Literature Review

Tao, R., Shokry, I. M., & Callanan, J. J. (2017). Environment Influencing Serotonin Syndrome Induced by Ecstasy Abuse. In M. F. N. e. a. Blaustein (Ed.), Serotonin Receptors in Neurobiology (pp. 337–359). Springer US.

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